Wuhan lab leak theory ‘cannot be ruled out’ for origins of Covid, says Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar

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Wellcome Trust director Sir Jeremy Farrar said the theory that Covid originated in and escaped from a Wuhan lab “cannot be ruled out” – 16 months after dismissing suggestions such as “theories of the conspiracy “.

The head of Europe’s largest philanthropic research fundraiser said science strongly suggests the virus happened naturally, but that is not a certainty.

“People are still debating what happened in 1918 [flu pandemic]. Where did it start? Where did it develop? How was the virus? And I suspect that [Covid] can still be discussed, certainly decades, if not 100 years, ”said Sir Jeremy.

“The origin of the virus is clearly an extremely controversial issue at the moment … I think the weight of scientific evidence points to a natural origin of this virus, but you cannot rule out the possibility of a laboratory accident.”

“Although I think the overwhelming weight – but certainly the weight – scientific evidence points to a natural origin. But we have to understand where this is coming from and I would call on all countries to be transparent and work with the World Health Organization to achieve this, ”said Sir Jeremy.

His comments come after he and 26 other experts published a statement in the Lancet in March 2020, which appeared to completely rule out the “Wuhan lab leak” theory.

“We stand in solidarity in strongly condemning conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 has no natural origin … Conspiracy theories only create fear, rumors and prejudices that endanger our global collaboration in the fight against this virus, “the statement said.

In further comments on Friday, Sir Jeremy said it made “a lot of sense” to update the NHS Covid app because the company is much better protected than when it launched last year.

Lateral flow tests are much better than they used to be – cheaper, easier to use, and more accurate – while a large portion of the population has been vaccinated and others have gained immunity natural against infection, he said.

He also pointed to a new study from the University of Oxford showing that the daily testing of high school students exposed to Covid is just as effective in curbing the spread as it is in isolating them – arguing that this provides further evidence that we can ourselves. move away from 10 days of isolation.

“We are in a different era than when the app was created: the lateral flow testing was not as good as it is today. They weren’t as sensitive, they were harder to use, they were more expensive, ”he said.

“The school study published today is reassuring; that you can do daily testing and will not have a huge ripple amplifying effect. Incorporating this into workplace practices and other events could be very important. “

“It was not possible four to six months ago, but I think it is now and with this that the application can be developed and adapted for a new era of this pandemic,” he said. .

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